Seattle Kraken Season Review: Not Vegas

I picked Seattle as my favourite team in the west before the season began, partially due to their jerseys being the best in the NHL, them having Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev on their team (don’t want to talk about it), and the hype surrounding their brand new franchise. In 2018 the Vegas Golden Knights did the impossible by reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in a year that everybody and their mothers expected to come dead last. Seattle, well, did not do what Vegas did, they almost did the exact oposite actual.

All of a sudden no one seems to care about the Kraken. They just took all of our favourite players and tanked to the 3rd worst record in the NHL (27–49–6). So what went wrong here? For one, I don’t like Dave Hakstol as a head coach. He hasn’t experienced much of any coaching success and led the way for multiple underachieving Flyers teams, as well as this Kraken one.

I’d move away from him this offseason with the surprising amount of options on the market such as Barry Trotz (Fired), Rick Bowness (Expiring Contract), and Jeff Blashill (Not being Resigned), along with plenty of previously fired coaches such as David Quinn, John Tortorella, Jeremy Colliton, Claude Julien, Travis Green, Dominque Ducharme, and Paul Maurice. Plenty of names. You could also get more creative and pick up one of the many coaches that haven’t already been subject to the rotating wheel of head coaches.

For two, their goalies were absolutely horrendous this year.

Philipp Grubauer had a phenomenal season with the Colorado Avalanche last year, earning himself a Vezina Trophy nomination in the process. So when he signed with the Kraken, the expectation was that goaltending would be one of their strongest areas. With the expansion draft selection and contract signing of Chris Driedger, who was coming off of a breakout season as the Panthers backup.

Instead, the Krakens goaltending became a massive weakness. Neither netminder performed well with their brand new contracts, and as much as I would like to blame this team's lacklustre defence, that’s not exactly the issue here.

This is @JfreshHockey ‘s GSAx rankings for the starting goaltenders this season. Considering that Grubauer was expected to be in the 5–10 range heading into this season, him being dead last behind rookie goaltenders such as Nico Daws and Karel Vejmelka is unbelievably terrible. Trust me, it was worse earlier in the season. It is a good thing that Grubauer started to play better as the season went along, but Seattle needs a full season like that out of him next season.

Aside from the netminders in Seattle, some players had really impressive seasons in the Krakens inaugural year. Jared McCann unsurprisingly had a fantastic career year, as he led the Kraken in scoring with 27 goals and 50 points in 74 games. His defensive efforts were not as strong as it has been in prior seasons, but that's absolutely worth it due to his fantastic finishing ability and offensive playdriving. His new 5x$5,000,000 contract extension is a steal for the Kraken, and I only expect him to progress more next year.

Yanni Gourde lived up to the task of being a top 6 center. He was on Tampa Bay’s third line for both of their past Cup runs, and people wondered if he could live up to the task of being in the top 6. People seem to forget that Gourde had his career year when he was a rookie in the 2018 season, where he had 25 goals and 64 points. Now, Gourde was still extremely impressive this season with a 21-goal, 48-point campaign. Do I think he can reach those career highs from his rookie year? Maybe. But he doesn’t necessarily need to, the Kraken have another center that they need to become an elite scorer.

Matty Beniers is the franchise at this point. The 2nd Overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft, who I would’ve picked first, has signed his entry-level contract with the Kraken. They played him for 10 games this season after his NCAA season ended, where he recorded an impressive 3 goals and 9 points. I don’t expect him to continue this production next year, but it looks like that Beniers is the real deal, and will be the future number 1 center of this franchise. The unfortunate thing is that they burned a year off of his entry-level contract, so it’ll only be a couple more years until they have to pay him.

Vince Dunn also had a good season on the Krakens blueline, putting up 35 points in 73 games. His defensive ability is almost nonexistent, but the offence that he brings is certainly noticeable compared to the rest of their defenders, who are mostly defensive defencemen. Due to the contract that the Kraken is paying him, I’m sure they want more offensive production out of Jamie Oleksiak, but I think he had an overall great season as their best defensive defenceman.

Shipping off the majority of their players that were about to become UFAs at the trade deadline made the Krakens offseason much easier. Victor Rask, Riley Sheahan, and Derrick Pouliot are the only UFAs on the roster. However, players such as Kole Lind, Ryan Donato, Morgan Geekie, Daniel Sprong, and Hadyn Fleury are all RFAs.

Seattle has ~$8,000,000 in cap space right now, so I don’t think that they’ll have any problem bringing those guys back. I can certainly still see a player such as Joonas Donskoi or Adam Larsson being shipped out for a small return to create some cap space to bring in another free agent this offseason.

With the 4th overall pick in the upcoming draft, I expect the Kraken to take one of Simon Nemec or David Jiricek. Getting a really good right-handed defenceman would be a great place to add to the organizational depth charts, as well as seeing how well these two players are seen. Jiricek is a bigger defenceman at 6'3", but Nemec is currently considered to be the better all-around defender, so I would prioritize him if possible.

I’m still extremely hyped to see what Seattle can do next season, there are so many storylines with this roster and the progression of an expansion franchise will surely bring back fans to be as excited as ever. And hey, maybe it isn’t all bad, you could’ve ended up like Vegas did this year.



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Aspiring Sports Journalist who likes to talk about Hockey, especially the Pittsburgh Penguins.